3.67 computers for scholarship, cont. (136)

Fri, 26 May 89 00:04:12 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 67. Friday, 26 May 1989.

(1) Date: 25 May 1989, 08:35:23 EDT (24 lines)
Subject: Computers for Scholarship

(2) Date: Thursday, 25 May 1989 1025-EST (50 lines)
Subject: Scholarly Research on Micros

(3) Date: Thu, 25 May 89 11:05:53 EDT (37 lines)
From: jonathan@eleazar.dartmouth.edu (Jonathan Altman)
Subject: Re: 3.64 {micro apps for research}

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 25 May 1989, 08:35:23 EDT
Subject: Computers for Scholarship

It is difficult to convince a colleague who hates machines more
complicated than a trowel to love computers, but since I was a convert
to computers partly because they help free one to work at home and
cultivate one's garden, I have no problems preaching. The global
village argument may work, the work-at-home argument may work, the
never-having-to-hit-the-typewriter-return-bar argument might work, but
there will be a few who will never, never, give in to the new technology
of writing because it is new and a technology. +Then+ you might try the
automatic-paragraph-reformat argument, the
push-the-footnotes-to-the-end-of-the-article argument, the block-move
argument. You +might+ talk about the use of other gadgets that can make
the scholar's or editor's life easier, such as the scanner, the laser
printer, the CD-ROM access to enormous data-bases, the e-mail access to
scholars all over the world in less than ten minutes, free. And then
you threaten the stay-behinds that if they don't learn how to use
computers they will be supplanted by people who do, including their
students. Note: the threats don't work either, but if they can see what
you can get done in scholarship, database organization,
information-retrieval, communication, they may get envious and emulate
you. Then they may thank you later, but I doubt it.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------53----
Date: Thursday, 25 May 1989 1025-EST
Subject: Scholarly Research on Micros

It is difficult to know where to begin to address Ellen Germain's
request concerning research use of microcomputers. The possibilities
are so open ended, and the actualities so widespread, but how to
demonstrate this (short of something like the Toronto Fair, which
will at least scrape the surface) is a real problem.

It occurs to me that a major aspect of the problem is that there is
the idea that somehow there will or should be generic scholarly
research software out there that can work miracles for the
wordprocessing scholar who wants more. Some does exist or is
being developed -- e.g. in the area of rapid search and retrieval
of textual and related materials (IBYCUS, PERSEUS-PANDORA, WordCruncher,
LBase, etc.). And the research potential of such tools is only
beginning to be tested. A variety of other types of research
software (and hardware) has appeared in various other scholarly
contexts/fields, as can be seen from the articles published in
the "Computers and ..." Journals (CHum, LLC, etc.), or in the section
of the Chronicle of Higher Education that lists new software, or
in displays at scholarly conferences.

But in the long run, individual scholars will need to know how to
tailor the software to their particular needs, either by learning
more about how to manipulate computers than is necessary for
running a wordprocessing package, or by having access to expert
consultation (e.g. undergraduate and graduate students, for many
of us). And persons developing foundational software for research
applications need to consider how to accommodate the need for
individual adaptations. I doubt that there can ever be a
substitute for the research scholar becoming much more involved
in the production and adjustment of the desired tools, any more
than the same scholar could operate effectively without knowing
how to use (directly or indirectly) the range of pre-computer
tools of value (typewriters, photographic and xerographic techniques,
chart formats, use of color, indexing and concording techniques, etc.).
At very least, knowing the sorts of things a computer can do
(theoretically) for a particular type of research is essential
for making (or causing to be made) productive use of this vastly
underutilized, extremely versitile and powerful, research technology.
Every serious research curriculum (especially in "humanities")
needs to insure that appropriate introductions to computers and
computing are available for its students and staff, if we are to
make effective progress in this new world. Don't just look for
finished products to acquire. Look to educating the targeted
"consumers" to be able to request/demand/produce appropriate products!

Bob Kraft (without apology for "preaching")
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------51----
Date: Thu, 25 May 89 11:05:53 EDT
From: jonathan@eleazar.dartmouth.edu (Jonathan Altman)
Subject: Re: 3.64 {micro apps for research}

Because it might be of general interest to those who have not yet
heard of what the Dante Project does, I figured I would answer this
question directly on Humanist. Sorry to those of you who have seen
announcements of our project before.

Yes, there are such tools. Currently, the Dante Project has
its VAX-based database of commentaries available for access from any
computer which can make a phone call or can access the Internet.
The Dante Project database is a collection of commentaries to Dante's
_Divina Commedia_ which have been fed in to a text-retrieval program,
allowing scholars to access the commentary text by searching for
various criteria. Although not strictly a pc-based research tool
because of this, you can use a PC to access it, and there are free
terminal-emulator programs that you could use, kermit being a prime
example. The Dante Project and Humanities Computing at Dartmouth
College are also developing a Hypercard stack for the Macintosh that
presents a slightly easier-to-use interface to the database. The Dante
Project will be at the Tools for Humanists show being held at the
Dynamic Text conference and we will have both the terminal and
hypercard access methods demonstrated. If you want more information,
please contact me.

Jonathan Altman jonathan@eleazar.Dartmouth.edu
Database Administrator jonathan.altman@Dartmouth.edu
Dartmouth Dante Project voice: 603-646-2633
301 Bartlett Hall
HB 6087
Hanover, NH 03755

PS There are several other intersting projects going on at
Dartmouth. I suggest you contact david.bantz@dartmouth.edu for
information. David is the Director of Humanities Computing.